“I like this place and willingly could waste my time in it” (a quote from As You Like It) seems a suitable quote to celebrate the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare. I do like my home here in France at La Godefrere and am happy to waste my time here. I could equally have used the quote from King Lear which might be more appropriate to my life here with three cats, moles, stealth cows and ugly sheep, which would be “O, that way madness lies, let me shun that, no more of that”.

This week the cats have returned to centre stage and have reasserted their importance to my life and my sanity. The week started with concern as Minou failed to turn up for breakfast. This is most unusual, especially for Minou as she doesn’t usually go very far away from the house and outbuildings. Despite calling for her she did not turn up. Moggie and Archie were there of course and offered to eat her breakfast, if she did not want it! After breakfast I went to look for her and eventually found her sat up in the top of our lean to shed, next to the house. She had obviously hurt herself and had difficulty getting down. When she did I could see that she had badly hurt one of her front legs as she was limping and it was extremely swollen.

Minou in intensive care!

So a trip to our local French vet was needed and he thought she may have been bitten by something, possibly a rat. He gave her some anti-biotics and anti-inflammatory injection and gave us some pills to give her. So for the past few days she has achieved her ambition to become an indoor cat as she rests up until the swelling goes down. She is still limping and hopping about the place, and needing lots of cuddles. Fortunately all our cats eat all their food in one go as they are farm cats. This means that we can put the pills into Minou’s food and she just eats the lot. We usually have to guard her as the other two eat incredibly quickly and if they get a chance will steal Minou’s food! So we had to make sure they didn’t steal the medicine as well. “DOCTOR: Therein the patient must minister to himself. MACBETH: Throw physic to the dogs; I'll none of it.” Macbeth 

Feeding time is a bit of an event and it is a bit like a hospital with the medicine tray as we give Minou her pills and Moggie is still taking his anti-stress medicine. It is quite chaotic trying to make sure the right cat has the right medicine and that they don’t steal each other’s food.

Moggie and Archie are not too happy about all this indoor stuff and have taken to sitting looking in the window at Minou. They send a clear message that it’s not fair, if she is in then we should be as well. This may well have influenced Archie’s behaviour this week as he has twice blotted his copy book.

In our courtyard we have a bird feeder at the top of a metal pole. To catch the seeds that the birds throw away I made a tray with a grill to put on the pole, about 4 ft off the ground. On Thursday I was looking out of the kitchen window when I saw Archie leap off the ground from a standing start and attempt to catch a bird on the tray. He managed to get high enough and in trying to grab the bird got his claws stuck in the grill and was left hanging from the tray with his feet off the ground. For a moment I paused with a dilemma. Should I rush to Archie’s aid or get my camera. I was worried he might do himself some damage as he could not get his claws out and was holding all his fairly considerable weight. So I rushed over to grab him and lift him so he could dislodge his claws.

I expected a murmur of gratitude from Archie but no. He immediately leapt out of my arms and dashed across the courtyard to grab the dazed sparrow that he had knocked off the bird tray!

Today Archie had an equally successful hunting day. This time he stalked the contents of an open car. We had a couple of women staying in the gite who were packing their car to go home. Despite our warnings about the cats being thieves they had left to back door to the car open while they went back upstairs to get more stuff to pack. In a flash Archie was in the car and came rushing out with a polythene bag containing some “pain au chocolates”. French pastry with chocolate inside. By the time we got there he had ripped open the bag and had the pastry in his mouth and was growling at anyone, cat or human, that came near him. There was no way he was giving up that prize and took it away to eat. “I am as vigilant as a cat to steal cream.” (Henry IV) Or in this case to steal pain au chocolat!

Archie and the stolen pain au chocolat

Moggie has had a bit of a quieter week and after his starring role last week when he cleaned the car and helped with fencing. This week all he did of note was to climb a tree and to make a fuss and a lot of noise! He is quite good at that. “Thrice the brindled cat hath mewed” (Macbeth)

We continue to develop towards our chickens arriving next week. The chicken house arrived in the week. This time not broken and so with some trepidation Mrs. Parish and I put it all together. Often these things come with extensive instructions regarding construction, even if in French. This time there was a tiny leaflet with each stage depicted in a very small diagram. So working out where each bit went was complicated. At one point we realised that we had constructed the outside but could not get inside to fix the ladder to enable the chickens to get to their roosting perches. So we undid it again and then I sent Mrs. Parish inside the chicken house to fix the fiddly bits. The cats of course came round immediately to inspect and as with most new things they had to wee against it.

Mrs Parish constructing the hen house from the inside

We plan to go to market on Wednesday to buy some chickens. I have said we need to get some pretty chickens as we have to put up with ugly sheep. Mrs Parish, thinks that the quality of the eggs is important but we can’t have more ugly animals! We will see what we can get. “All my pretty ones? Did you say all? O hell-kite! All? What, all my pretty chickens” (Macbeth).

So, it is a cold and windy day here in France. Mrs. Parish and I have retreated from the garden and we have lit the wood fire early today. Mrs. Parish has got out her knitting and I am writing up the blog while we watch English FA cup semi-final on French TV with the commentary in French. A somewhat surreal experience. Yesterday our friend Sarah brought around a consignment of veal from her farmer friend Olivier. That is now sitting in the freezer with the beef and pork from the same source. We are hoping in due course for a consignment of lamb later in the year and of course our own leg from the lambs in our paddock.

Mrs. Parish is preparing roast pork for this evening’s dinner and I will need to brave the cold wind to go over to the cave to get a nice bottle of Sauvignon Blanc to drink with our meal. I do like this pace and am quite happy wasting my time here!
“SIR TOBY: Does not our lives consist of the four elements?
SIR ANDREW: Faith, so they say; but I think it rather consists of eating and drinking.
SIR TOBY: Thou'rt a scholar; let us therefore eat and drink”. (Twelfth Night)

It appears to be time for a little aperitif!

“I drink to the general joy o’ the whole table”